For those of you that haven’t been keeping up with me for a while, I need to make a confession that may prove to be shocking to some. I am recovering from Audiophillia Nervousa. This has actually become a bit of a rare condition. Starting in college, I became obsessed with the idea of “sound quality.” My first job out of college was selling so called high end audio systems and home theaters. I have spent a serious amount of money over the years on equipment and music. For most of those years, every different thing I bought was to eke out another bit of performance out of the system.
A lot of people, well, I say people but I really mean guys, claim to want a really “nice” system. There is a huge range of opinion about what that actually means. For many it is all about bass and volume. I value tonal accuracy and dynamics. I like to be able to hear the mix, the mics, and the decisions that were made in recording when it comes to mic placement, recording philosophy, etc. I went to some crazy lengths to get those things. At one point I had well over 7 grand worth of gear in my system. That would have included the turntable, cartridge, preamp (possibly a separate phono preamp), CD player, amplifiers, and speakers. Sad thing is that’s nothing in the high end world.
The flashiest things I ever own are my amps. I have been a tube (or valve as my friends across the pond call them) amp lover from the beginning. Hope you’ll forgive a quick history of my tube amps, I’m feeling nostalgic:)
I went big for my first set. And when I say set, I mean a pair of amps. One for the left side and another for the right. I had a pair of Golden Tube Audio SE-40 amps. Looked like this:
Yeah, I had two of these. That meant I had 12 output tubes cooking away. It used 6l6 type tubes and had a very “Chocolate cake” kind of presentation. Sweet, sticky, and addictive. When I moved up to Northern Virginia, I had to scale my system way back because I couldn’t afford the space for that kind of system any more. I ended up with a little Jolida amp.
Pretty sure that’s the one, don’t remember the model number but it did use EL84 output tubes. A tiny thing, about a third the size of one of the Golden Tube amps! I then went into the wilderness and had solid state amps for a while. When I got back into tubes, once again I went big:) Audio Mirror was what I went with this time.
These are also mono blocks so I have 2 of them. The front is about 9 inches across and they are about 1 3/4 feet deep. Big sound, big, impressive amps. I still have these. About a year ago, a friend bought me an amp, totally out of the blue!
This one isn’t nearly as flashy as the others but in some ways it is probably the best amp I’ve ever had. This was actually a kit and was put together by a hobbyist. You might not think that’s a recipe for a good product but it turns out that one of the biggest expenses with tube amps is the labor putting them together. If you spend the money on parts alone, you can get much better quality components. this is an interesting amp (to tube nerds at least) because it is able to use two totally different tube types. It can use Pentodes like 6l6 or KT88 as well as 300b tubes! Wild.
Between this amp and the acoustics of my current room, I have never had better sound. I still have the urge to upgrade though, but my upgrade path is going to take me down the road of simplification. I’ll be very happy if I can keep the same sound quality. I’ll bore you with those ideas next:)